Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus

Type of Animal:

Weed beds, quiet streams, vegetated streams, slow-moving streams, ponds, lagoons, lakes, vegetated creeks, vegetated rivers, large rivers, piers, swimming rafts, tree-shaded shores, within submerged aquatic vegetation, underwater brush piles, reservoirs, marshes, farm ponds, swamps, river basins, sand/gravel/clay bottoms, brackish bay tributaries, prefer 60-80 F water & pH of 6.5-8.5 (slightly acidic to slightly basic)

Native to most of continental US, S Ontario, S Quebec, & NE Mexico. Introduced/invasive in parts of continental US, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, much of Europe, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Cuba, El Salvador, Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Iran, Morocco, South Africa, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, & Australia.

Coloration varies from population to population typically w/ deep blue/purple on face/gill cover, dark olive bands down side, yellow to fiery orange belly (fiery orange more prominent in breeding males), females sometimes have white bellies, deep flattened body, bluntly pointed head, younger fish paler

Insects, insect larvae, crustaceans, worms, other fish (including smaller members of own species), zooplankton, rotifers, snails, leeches, fish flakes, fish pellets, human food scraps (especially bread/corn/crackers), aquatic vegetation, algae, fish eggs (including of own species), bivalves

Status in Wild:

Not applicable

Schools of 10-150 fish. Spawn in dense colonies w/ each breeding male guarding small spawning territory.

Additional Info:

Young: Fry
Group: School
Male: 0.8-2 lbs
Female: 0.5-0.7 lbs
5-6 days

Life Span:
4-7 years in wild, 8-10 years in captivity

Male: 6.5 in
Female: 3 in

Body Length:
Male: 7-16 in
Female: 4-8 in
Young: 0.39 in

Tail Length:
1 in, same for both sexes

Main predators are bass, walleye, pike, muskellunge, birds, raccoons, crocodilians, turtles, otters, trout, other sunfish (including other bluegill), yellow perch, & snakes.
A single female can lay 10,000-60,000 eggs & males breed w/ multiple females meaning males often guard hundreds of thousands of eggs & fry, which stay w/ dad for 1 week. Males guard nests aggressively, even attacking people who get too close. Single female may spawn up to 9 times a season as well, meaning fish populations explode easily.
Stunted fish more common in overpopulated areas.
Quite common for intruding males to sneak in spawning sites & fertilize breeding male’s eggs.

Fun Fact(s):
State fish of Illinois.
Former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley gave 16 of these fish to then Japanese crown prince Akihito in 1960. Akihito in turn donated fish to fishery research agencies from which they escaped & became invasive.

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